Naturally beautiful: ‘Woman Unadorned’ exhibit opens

‘Woman Unadorned’ is plain, pretty and powerful. The series is currently showing over the next month at OfficeXpats in the Pavilion off Madison Avenue.

Kathryn Leslie was the first model for Woman Unadorned. She then helped her husband John Wood organize the other models.

One local photographer felt he had a lot to say — by using as little as possible — and the resulting message has been greeted with natural enthusiasm.

“Woman Unadorned” is a project by local photographic artist John Wood, who wanted to depict women showing their natural beauty, absent any makeup or other accents.

The series of 34 photographs is a departure from Wood’s usual work that is based in taking photographs and morphing them beyond the original image into an alternate, artistic presentation.

The series is currently showing over the next month at OfficeXpats in the Pavilion off Madison Avenue.

With “Woman Unadorned,” Wood wanted to leave the pictures of women entirely untreated, representing the exact original vision and character of the model.

“I really liked the idea, and I think it was a neat challenge for women and a great message for the world that we can love and accept ourselves just as we are,” said Kathryn Leslie, Wood’s wife and the first model for the project.

Leslie doesn’t shun makeup or other adornments, but said that there is a value in appreciating one’s self as is.

“I don’t have anything against makeup, but I also think it is important to love ourselves naturally,” Leslie said. “And I’m a person who almost always wears makeup.”

Models are presented from the neck up, with no decoration common to modern women. Their hair is even pulled back to avoid the distraction of a hairstyle. It is just simply them — unadorned.

“It’s not anti-makeup, it’s just more for natural beauty,” Wood said.

Wood got the idea after watching his wife one day.

“It started with my wife, and I thought, ‘I could do this with other women,’” Wood said.

“And it caught on. They liked the motive and the intent which is to say, ‘You are beautiful without all this stuff.’”

The project blossomed quickly. Wood only put one small mention of the project in the local Island Moms blog. He received five responses from potential models.

“And after they got their picture taken, they told their friends. And their friends told other friends, and so on,” he said.

Soon Wood was hearing from other islanders, then women from Suquamish, Poulsbo and Kingston. He even made a trip to Olympia to photograph 10 models there.

“The power of the idea, it just caught on with women,” Wood said. “It is saying something important, and that carried through to the opening. Some of the women there were moved to tears.”

Leslie helped with the models. She said that the experience for her was additionally beneficial because she got to know all the models and their reasons for being a part of the project.

“Some did it strictly for the challenge,” Leslie said. “They know that on the other side of a challenge is some growth.

“It was scary of someone taking a picture up close without makeup on and what came from that, is they learn so many things about themselves and what mattered to them,” she said.

Other models did it because they wanted to be role models for their teenage daughters, to tell them that beauty does not require makeup. Others were actors and viewed the project as another part to play.

“They had other roles where they dressed up and this was stripping themselves down,” Leslie said.

The opening proved to be a success. Models brought their friends and families. Others came to admire the photographs and the message.

Wood produced a hardbound book of the show that can now be found at his website, lovingpower.com.

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